The Transforming Power of Biblical Forgiveness

By Denise George   •   January 30, 2019 

On the second anniversary of the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., family members of Myra Thompson join in song during a memorial service. Photograph: Newscom

On a hot, muggy night in Charleston, S.C., 21-year-old Dylann Roof walked into the basement of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church and joined a dozen Wednesday evening Bible study members as they studied Mark 4. It was June 17, 2015.

The teacher, Myra Thompson, warmly welcomed the 5-foot-9-inch, 120-pound boyish-looking man with the pale face. Roof’s tousled blond hair was cut in a salad bowl shape, and he wore a tourist’s fanny pack around his waist. 

Clementa Pinckney, Emanuel’s pastor, invited Roof to sit next to him, and someone placed a Bible in his hands. Roof sat quietly during the Bible study, saying nothing, his facial expression blank.

At 9 p.m., Myra ended the study, standing with the others to pray.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven,” they prayed together, “hallowed be thy—”

Suddenly Dylann pulled a Glock .45 from his fanny pack. Piercing the quiet fellowship hall with an exploding CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!, he opened fire on the praying members. Shooting each person multiple times at point-blank range, and shouting hateful racial slurs, he killed eight church members immediately, including Myra Thompson and Pastor Pinckney. The ninth victim died shortly thereafter. 

Roof walked out, leaving the dead, dying and terrified behind him on the blood-stained floor. The church security camera recorded his image, the gun still in his hand.

Word of the church massacre spread throughout the city, turning Charleston’s narrow streets into tangled mazes of screaming sirens, flashing lights and panicked onlookers.

When Myra’s husband, the Reverend Anthony Thompson, pastor of Charleston’s Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church, arrived home from his church’s Wednesday evening program, a friend telephoned him.

“There’s been a shooting at Emanuel Church!” he said. Anthony rushed to the church. When he discovered his wife’s murder, he fell to the pavement and cried.

Rev. Anthony Thompson stands outside Emanuel African Episcopal Church.Photograph: Reuters/Newscom

Police found Dylann Roof the next morning, arrested him and took him back to Charleston. When two FBI agents interrogated him, the young racist laughed, bragged about the murders and claimed he had hoped to start a race war. He admitted he had chosen Charleston and the Emanuel A.M.E. Church for his massacre because of their past slave history.

On Friday, June 19, fewer than 48 hours after the murders, Anthony reluctantly attended Roof’s bond hearing. A video camera from the detention center linked Roof to the courtroom. Judge James Gosnell invited the victims’ family members to speak directly to Roof through an audio connection. Although Anthony didn’t intend to say anything, he felt led by God to walk forward. He depended on God to put His words into his mouth.

“I forgive you,” Anthony told Dylann. “And my family forgives you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most: Jesus Christ, so that He can change it and change your attitude. And no matter what happens to you, then you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

Several other family members at the hearing also offered their forgiveness.

City and state police prepared and braced themselves for the racial riots they expected to explode in Charleston, fearing the bloodshed, violence and looting as recently witnessed in Ferguson, Baltimore, Berkeley and other cities after racially-motivated crimes had occurred.

But, to the world’s amazement, Charleston erupted not in violence, but in grace, the city responding with acts of love and kindness. Charleston’s mayor, Joseph Riley, witnessed firsthand the unexpected results of Biblical forgiveness, stating: “A hateful person came to this community with some crazy idea he’d be able to divide. But all he did was unite us and make us love each other even more.”

Makeshift memorials of flowers grew in front of the church. Compassionate donors pledged thousands of dollars to help the victims’ families. Thousands of people gathered in downtown Charleston for an evening vigil and prayer service. The whole city mourned the senseless deaths, visible acts of love setting off a godly chain of events as blacks and whites embraced, crying together and comforting one another in Charleston’s crowded streets. More than 15,000 people of all colors and faiths joined hands, creating a flesh-and-blood human bridge, a chain of visible love that stretched for two miles and crossed Charleston’s Ravenel Bridge.

After the shooting, and having witnessed the powerful and peaceful results brought about by Biblical forgiveness, the world struggled to better understand it. They wondered how Anthony Thompson could forgive his wife’s cold-blooded killer, and even share with him the message of Christ’s forgiveness and salvation.

They asked some hard questions:

Before Thompson forgave him, should Roof not have first apologized, expressed remorse and tried to make amends for his actions?

Did forgiving Roof mean that Thompson dismissed, excused or condoned his ruthless act?

Mustn’t Thompson have felt forgiving before he forgave Roof?

How could Thompson forgive so quickly, before his wife was even buried? Doesn’t genuine forgiveness take years to accomplish?

Society discovered important truths about Biblical forgiveness and how it differs so greatly from the world’s false concept of forgiveness. They learned that Biblical forgiveness:

  • Can forgive any crime, no matter how atrocious—not dismissing, condoning or excusing an offender’s actions, but blaming him and then forgiving him. Thompson blamed Roof for killing his wife, and therefore he could choose to forgive him.
  • Doesn’t depend on the offender’s response. Roof remained consistently unrepentant, showing no remorse and never apologizing. “I would like to make it crystal clear,” Roof wrote in his journal, “I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.” Later, during his April 2017 trial and federal death sentence, Roof publicly stated: “I felt like I had to do it. I still feel like I had to do it.” Thompson forgave Roof without the young racist’s response, remorse, repentance or apology.
  • Doesn’t require the forgiver to feel forgiving. Forgiveness is a choice of the forgiver’s will, not a decision based on emotional feelings. Paul writes: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
  • Requires believers to pray as Jesus taught, asking God to “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Anthony Thompson chose to forgive the sinner Dylann Roof because Jesus Christ had chosen to forgive the sinner Anthony Thompson. “Scripture tells me that I am a sinner, forgiven by Christ, and saved by grace,” Thompson admitted. “Therefore, I am obliged to forgive others who hurt me.”

Jesus gave believers the perfect example of Biblical forgiveness when He forgave those murderers who nailed Him to the cross. “Father,” He prayed aloud in His time of great suffering, “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Anthony Thompson’s choice to forgive his wife’s murderer brought Scriptural forgiveness and Biblical teachings into the world’s media limelight. Christ worked in the midst of this tragedy to change hearts and lives.

Dylann Roof had hoped to fuel a race war by killing Emanuel’s members. But as a Christian Examiner reporter later wrote: “It … has had the opposite effect, allowing the grieving families to put the Gospel’s power on full display for not only Roof but for a watching television audience.”

Anthony Thompson continues to pray for Roof, hoping that before the misguided young man dies by lethal injection, he will ask God’s forgiveness and receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. But Anthony has laid down his heavy burden, he has forgiven his wife’s killer and he has chosen to move forward in Christ’s ministry, just as he knows Myra would wish him to do.  ©2019 Denise George

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version.

Denise George is the author or coauthor of 31 nonfiction books. She recently worked with Anthony Thompson on his new book: “Called to Forgive: The Charleston Church Shooting, A Victim’s Husband, and the Path to Healing and Peace” (to be released in June 2019 by Bethany House Publishers). Denise is married to Timothy George, Th.D., founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University.

Have you asked Christ to forgive your sins? Start here.

The Transforming Power of Biblical Forgiveness

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AUDIO Should We Call Out False Teachers or Ignore Them?

Interview with John Piper Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

Hey, everyone. A production note before we begin: Just when you cannot imagine John Piper’s voice diving any lower, here we are. It’s bronchial stuff, plunging Pastor John into new realms of sub-bass that only a Hollywood movie trailer voice-over guy could normally reach. That’s true here for about a week or so. Here’s today’s episode.

Pastor John, here’s a question from Caden in Boca Raton, Florida. “Hello, Pastor John! After seeing the documentary American Gospel, I was conflicted because I’m not sure if I am supposed to call out false teachers. Second Peter 2:1–3 makes it obvious that there will be false teachers, but the text also does not say we should point them out. I have heard both sides to this argument, but I’m still not sure. I want to be careful to not ‘pronounce judgment before the time’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). Does this passage apply here in this situation? Are we taking a judgment that isn’t ours? Or should we rest in God’s ultimate knowledge? And if a prominent false teacher is to be called out, who does this — where and how?”

Maybe it would be helpful to step back first and get the bigger picture of the New Testament response to those who live and teach in ways that lead others into error and ruin, and then zero in on 1 Corinthians 4:5 for some guidelines for how we should speak and write about such people.

Beware the Wolves

So let’s begin with Jesus. Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” And the word beware means all of us should be alert, but especially shepherds, to identify not just false teaching, but false teachers, whose ways are subtle. They’re clothing themselves with lamb’s wool while they’re wolves.

And Paul used the same Greek word for beware in Acts 20:28–29 when he said, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. . . . I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the.”

“In order to protect the flock, we should expose false teachers and minimize the spread of the gangrene.”

Jesus used the same word again in Matthew 16:6, but he got more specific: “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Paul had the same kind of group in mind and the same kind of error in mind in Philippians 3:2 and 3:18: “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.” And then verse 18: “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Then in Romans 16:17, he warned, “Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”

Avoid, Rebuke, Call Out

To avoid them, you have to know who they are. You can’t avoid somebody if you don’t know who they are. This idea of identifying and avoiding shows up in 1 Corinthians 5:112 Thessalonians 3:6142 Timothy 3:52 John 10. In other words, Christians, and shepherds in particular, should be discerning and alert to behavior and teaching that dishonors Christ and destroys people — and not treat it in a casual or harmless way.

And then in 1 Timothy 5:19–20, Paul went beyond just “avoid them” to “rebuke them publicly.” So, speaking of elders who persist in error, he said, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin” — and that can be sin of false doctrine or sin of evil behavior, anyone who does not accept correction — “rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear..”

And then Paul went on and actually named destructive false teachers:

  • “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:10).
  • “You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15).
  • “By rejecting this [faith and a good conscience], some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander” (1 Timothy 1:19–20).
  • “Their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus” (2 Timothy 2:17).

Paul names at least six false teachers that the church should watch out for.

So, I infer from Jesus and Paul and Luke and John that false teaching and destructive behavior are present dangers in this fallen world for the church. And all of us — especially shepherds, pastors — should be alert and discerning to identify, and in appropriate ways, expose. In order to protect the flock, we should expose them and minimize the spread of the gangrene (as Paul calls it).

Expose Evil

Now, in 1 Corinthians 4:5, Paul is talking about how the Corinthians should assess Paul and Cephas and Apollos, because the people are choosing sides and boasting in their favorite teacher. He says,

I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one [Paul, Cephas, Apollos] will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4–5)

“The best protection against the darkness of error is the light of truth.”

So Caden is asking whether the words “do not pronounce judgment before the time” should keep us from identifying false teachers or from naming them. I don’t think so. “Don’t pronounce judgment before the time” means “Don’t do what only Christ can do at that last day — on the day of judgment.” Don’t presume to know the heart like Jesus will know the heart on that day. Only Christ “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”

But for now, our job is indeed to do mouth judgment, writing judgment, behavior judgment — not a heart judgment, but mouth and writing and behavior judgment. When a mouth speaks unbiblical, destructive teaching, when a blog or an article or a book publishes unbiblical and destructive teaching, when a body — a human body, a physical body — behaves with unbiblical and destructive behavior, in all these cases, we are to be discerning. And according to Ephesians 5:11, we are to expose the error. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” “Censure them; show them to be wrong” is what the word elegchō means.

Five Factors for Calling Out False Teachers

So the question is how and when — not if. And here I think the Bible calls for wisdom, rather than telling us who and when and how. The question we ask is this: How can we best — in our situation, with our gifts and our responsibilities — help the most people believe and live the most truth, and how can we protect the most people from destructive beliefs and behaviors?

And here are five factors perhaps to consider when deciding whether to name a false teacher publicly.

  1. The seriousness and deceitfulness of the error.
  2. The size of the audience. Is it growing?
  3. The duration of their ministry. Did they make one blunder or are they constantly doing it?
  4. The vulnerability of the people for whom you are responsible.
  5. The role you have in influencing shepherds who really need to be discerning for who the false teachers are.

When you do name a false teacher, it’s best to do it in a setting where you do more than name-drop. You explain the error, you give reasons for rejecting it, you communicate complexities, you set a tone of longing for truth and love — you’re not just slinging mud.

The last thing I would say is to let your teaching be so powerful in clarifying the greatness and the beauty and the worth of God’s truth that your people will smell error before it infects their lives. The shape of error is always changing. You can’t preach enough negative sermons to stay ahead of it. And you don’t have to. The best protection against the darkness of error is the light of truth.

Listen to the at audio

VIDEO ‘Not if but when’ children exposed to porn online

Ryan Dobson launches seminars for churches

By Brandon Showalter, CP Reporter

Author and podcaster Ryan Dobson is launching an initiative to equip parents to safeguard their homes from everything from predators to pornography to home invasions.

In a Friday phone interview with The Christian Post, Ryan Dobson, son of radio broadcaster James Dobson, emphasized that hoping for the best is not a plan when it comes to protecting their kids. It’s not a matter of if but when, he says, regarding exposure to illicit content online.

The idea for Home Safe seminars, which he founded and will launch on Sunday, was borne of his podcast Rebel Parenting. Home Safe is a new, church-based training seminar empowering parents with the strategies and tools to protect their families at church, school, in public places, and at home, according to his website.

“We got so many calls from parents who were just afraid but don’t know what to do,” Dobson told CP.

“We used to joke back in the day that your parents had trouble setting the clock on the VCR. But we are a light year away from the VCR clock with TikTok, SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, there’s a new app coming out every week that all our kids know how to use but parents are in the dark about what to do and they are so afraid.”

Through Home Safe seminars, Dobson — who grew up in a high-profile family in which security was always a concern — walks parents through the variety of threats families now face and offers immediate specifics on how to address them. The curriculum has an entire section about how parents can talk to their kids about pornography.

“Is it awkward at first? Yes, but you can do it. These are almost like scripted conversations you can have, and once you get your feet wet, then you’ve already started that process with your kids.”

Dobson and his team have surveyed and aggregated the best and worst resources from everything from alarm systems to porn screening software.

“It breaks my heart when I get an email from someone who says ‘Man, you’ve been talking about filtering porn, you’ve talked about the resources, and I know I should have done something,” he said, recounting a specific message he received recently, a mom who told him that she “found out my 9-year-old daughter, she and her friends Googled the word ‘butts.”’

The girls, who were just being silly, ended up being exposed to graphic content because Google does not filter out porn.

“It’s not if, it’s a when,” children will be exposed to it, he added, stressing that it’s always better that parents prepare and speak with their kids before a problem arises because then they will have “done the groundwork” and children will then approach them first instead of one of their friends or a stranger.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/not-if-but-when-children-exposed-to-porn-online-ryan-dobson-launches-seminars-for-churches.html

Grace for Villains: Learning From Nathan’s Parable

Bible Crown of Thorns

By Alex Aili -July 22, 2019

 

When David coerced Bathsheba into adultery, impregnated her, and then concealed it by murdering her husband (2 Sam. 11), it’s not a stretch to conclude that his heart was not in the right place.

But for God to convict him of this crime, he didn’t storm in with a proclamation of wrath. Instead, through the prophet Nathan, he used the covertness of Story.

Nathan’s parable is well-known, but it’s worth quoting at length:

“THERE WERE TWO MEN IN A CERTAIN CITY, THE ONE RICH AND THE OTHER POOR. THE RICH MAN HAD VERY MANY FLOCKS AND HERDS, BUT THE POOR MAN HAD NOTHING BUT ONE LITTLE EWE LAMB, WHICH HE HAD BOUGHT. AND HE BROUGHT IT UP, AND IT GREW UP WITH HIM AND WITH HIS CHILDREN. IT USED TO EAT OF HIS MORSEL AND DRINK FROM HIS CUP AND LIE IN HIS ARMS, AND IT WAS LIKE A DAUGHTER TO HIM. NOW THERE CAME A TRAVELER TO THE RICH MAN, AND HE WAS UNWILLING TO TAKE ONE OF HIS OWN FLOCK OR HERD TO PREPARE FOR THE GUEST WHO HAD COME TO HIM, BUT HE TOOK THE POOR MAN’S LAMB AND PREPARED IT FOR THE MAN WHO HAD COME TO HIM”

2 Sam. 12:1b-4

If Nathan were to confront the sin directly, it would have only added to the problem of David’s self-preservation, which had been his chief priority since the sin’s committal (11:6-24). In other words, the story couldn’t have been “on the nose,” with a plot involving murder or sexual sin, for that would have broken the spell. God simply used a different angle to get at the same type of sin: the abuse of power.

The fictional tale was catered specifically to David, who, being a king, was responsible for judicial verdicts. He would have understandably taken it as just another exercise of justice.

Still, despite its specificity, we can still glean the relevant technique Nathan used. The key is empathy, for when David identified with the victim of the story (David himself being a former shepherd; 2 Sam. 7:8), he felt the brunt of greed and lust–little did he know that it was his own greed and lust!

“THEN DAVID’S ANGER WAS GREATLY KINDLED AGAINST THE MAN, AND HE SAID TO NATHAN, “AS THE LORD LIVES, THE MAN WHO HAS DONE THIS DESERVES TO DIE.”

2 Samuel 12:5

David’s emotional response to injustice allowed Nathan to turn the tables (“You are the man!”) because David walked into a trap of his own making. David could not retreat to disinterested judgment once he placed his own moral cards on the table. To put it differently, when David felt the impact of greed and lust via empathizing with the poor man, he was then vulnerable enough to see his own villainy.

Becoming the Villain

The contemporary trend of antiheroes and villains, fictional or not, gives an opportunity for the negative side of the gospel (Rom. 3:23) to speak. For we are all the “villains” in God’s story (Rom. 5:8, 10; Eph. 2:1-3), and we must see our own sin in light of God’s goodness (note how David admitted that his sin was against God; 2 Sam. 12:13; Psa. 51:4) before we can move from ignorance to contrition. We cease to be passive spectators when we’re forced to confront the villainy within ourselves, and once we do, we see the “Good News” as it really is.

That’s why stories with negative character arcs are necessary; they compel us to see how easy it is to become the villain. Specifically, well-written stories invite us to follow an apparently good character pursuing an apparently good goal until he inevitably reaches villainy by overemphasizing one good over others. David, for example, overemphasized personal sexual fulfillment, perhaps by overindulging his God-given lordship, at the expense of God’s laws of fidelity.

While engaging with negative-arc stories, our mirror neurons allow us to affix ourselves to the villainous characters. We are affected without consciously knowing why. While we may identify with fallen characters, it will take intentionality to break through to the Truth lurking within.

Yes, it’s easy to scoff at the prospect of self-reflection. “Entertainment” analyzed ceases to be entertaining for many of us. But choosing ignorance doesn’t change the fact that stories affect us. If we deny this, we become no different than David, who allowed ignorance to blind him to his own villainy.

We may not have our own personal “Prophet Nathan” to tell us customized stories to convict us of sin, but we do have the Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Rom. 8:26), whose ministry reaches to the deepest ignorance. With that in mind, it’s wise to be intentional about the narratives we enjoy. As the Reel World Theology slogan aptly puts it: “Entertainment is not mindless.”

It all starts with some simple questions, such as the following:

“What would I do in this character’s situation?”

“What am I prone to value too much?”

Could I become the villain?”

“Am I already a villain?”

And especially, “What does Grace mean for the villain?”

Original here

A Church Without Walls

The dwindling number of Christians isn’t enough to discourage Danny Awad from continuing God’s work in Bethlehem.

 

Danny Awad rings a brass bell to announce Sunday morning service at Baraka Presbyterian Church in Bethlehem. This is a tradition from the fourth century, when church bells could be heard throughout the Middle East, calling believers to worship. Until recently, Bethlehem—honored as the place of Jesus’ birth—was predominantly Christian. But over the last few decades, Christianity has become the minority as more families chose to leave the political and economic situation in the West Bank.

“It is very difficult to live here,” says Awad. Isolated behind a 25-foot barrier, Baraka—one of the few remaining evangelical congregations in the area—has dwindled from hundreds to less than 50 members.

Awad grew up hearing his father, who was a pastor before him, share stories about the years before the wall, when the church had plentiful resources, high attendance, and a record of growth. And although much has changed politically and economically since his father’s era, dedication to ministry has not wavered. The church continues to operate two fellowships—one in Bethlehem and another in Shepherd’s Gate—as well as two outreach centers and a variety of small groups and Bible studies that gather in home settings.

There is also the House of Hope, a full-time care center for youth with special needs, who have been cast off from traditionally Muslim families. For many, a disability is seen as a shameful curse from Allah. Awad has found Scripture and teaching on the In Touch Messenger useful in offering the Christian perspective on this, particularly in his work with blind or developmentally delayed children. Many of these young people have come to faith as they encountered God’s Word and the tender love of Awad’s congregation.

Baraka also operates a daycare center, which has a favorable reputation among locals. Fully aware of its Christian emphasis, many Muslim parents drop their children off here and return week after week—even when the boys and girls start singing “Jesus Loves You” on the drive home.

Still, Awad prays for more workers and resources to keep up with the plentiful harvest. “Many are coming to Christ here,” he says. “We baptize a lot of Muslims.” Despite the sizable political obstacles and economic hardships these believers face, Awad trusts that when God builds His church, no physical or spiritual barrier will be able to overcome it.

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Believers like Danny are committed to getting the good news of Jesus Christ to neighbors and friends in their community. The In Touch Messenger is an excellent tool for delivering biblical truth quickly, clearly, and irresistibly.

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/in-focus/a-church-without-walls

Miracles and Science

For a many people in the West, science seems to be at odds with belief in God because of its ‎claims to the miraculous. How can modern scientific people possibly believe in ancient stories ‎about signs, wonders, and resurrections from the dead; written by uneducated men in pre-‎scientific times?‎

The underlying assumption that the authors of the Bible were gullible and we’ve‎ only now ‎become critical thinkers, is what C.S. Lewis describes as “chronological snobbery”. People have ‎always known that dead people don’t come back to life, and the Bible records very human ‎reactions to miracles (e.g. fear and disbelief). Miracles are never expected.‎

Moreover, modern attempts to relativise theistic beliefs in terms of socio-cultural assumptions ‎of the time, are necessarily rooted in socio-cultural assumptions of our time. The sociology of ‎knowledge (the study of the relationship between human thought and the social context within ‎which it arises) should not only be applied to other cultures, but to our culture as well. As ‎Peter Berger, one of the founders of the sociology of knowledge, points out:‎

“The past, out of which the tradition comes, is relativised in terms of this or that socio-‎historical analysis. The present, however, remains strangely immune from relativisation. ‎In other words, the New Testament writers are seen as afflicted with a false consciousness ‎rooted in their time, but the contemporary analyst takes the consciousness of his time as ‎an unmixed intellectual blessing. The electricity- and radio-users are placed intellectually above ‎the Apostle Paul.‎

This is rather funny. More importantly, in the perspective of the sociology of knowledge, it is an ‎extraordinarily one-sided way of looking at things. What was good for the first century is good ‎for the twentieth. The worldview of the New Testament writers was constructed and maintained ‎by the same kind of social processes that construct and maintain the world view of ‎contemporary “radical” theologians. Each has its appropriate plausibility structure, its ‎plausibility-maintaining mechanisms. If this is understood, then the appeal to any alleged ‎modern consciousness loses most of its persuasiveness – unless, of course, one can bring ‎oneself to believe that modern consciousness is indeed the embodiment of superior cognitive ‎powers.” (Peter Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the ‎Supernatural, 41)‎

One of the differences between ancient cultures and modern Western culture, is that modern ‎Western culture often conflates methodological naturalism (the view that miracles are ‎miraculous) with philosophical naturalism (the view that miracles are impossible). Miracles are ‎miraculous by definition, but what makes miracles impossible (apart from unprovable ‎assumptions about the world)?‎

No one doubts the monumental advances of science, but science depends upon the regularity of ‎nature (also known as methodological naturalism), not the non-existence of the supernatural ‎‎(also known as philosophical naturalism). There is simply no one scientific worldview. ‎Christians can do science, Buddhists can do science, Muslims can do science, Hindus can do science. You don’t have to ‎be an atheist, all you need to assume the regularity of nature.‎

Nevertheless, the assumption of the regularity of nature (which is required for science) wasn’t ‎obvious for most of human history, and it took the Christian view that God is a God of order ‎for it to be well established enough to give rise to the scientific method. In 16th century Europe, ‎the Christian Reformation led to the questioning of tradition and the push to go ‘to the sources’. ‎In 17th century Europe, this was applied to creation, which led to the rise of modern science.‎

No historian of science chalks up the rise of modern science coming on the heels the ‎Reformation, in the same place as the Reformation, to coincidence. Indeed, most historians of science hold to some ‎form of Merton’s ‎thesis, that “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they ‎expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A ‎Preliminary Study, 169)‎

Philosophical naturalism simply does not follow from the regularity of nature. Indeed, without ‎the regularity of nature, we would have no way of recognising a miracle as a miracle. Belief in ‎God doesn’t deny the regularity of nature (which is required for science), but rather, the ‎evidence for God depends on it. As C.S. Lewis wrote:‎

‎“If I put six pennies into a drawer on Monday and six more on Tuesday, the laws decree that – ‎‎other things being equal – I shall find twelve pennies there on Wednesday. But if the ‎drawer has been robbed I may in fact find only two. Something will have been broken (the lock ‎of the drawer or the laws of England) but the laws of arithmetic will not have been broken. The ‎new situation created by the thief will illustrate the laws of arithmetic just as well as the original ‎situation. But if God comes to work miracles, He comes ‘like a thief in the night’… The better ‎you know that two and two make four, the better you know that two and three don’t.” (C.S. ‎Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 92-93)‎

Far from disproving the existence of miracles, the regularity of nature is precisely what’s ‎required to recognise miracle as a miracle. Miracles are incredibly rare (because of the regularity ‎of nature), and so most theists are somewhat sceptical about claims of the miraculous. But ‎unlike committed atheists, who, as Lewontin admits, “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”, the ‎theist’s worldview allows them to follow the evidence wherever it leads.‎

http://www.faithbasedonevidence.com/miracles.html

Church takes worship service to ‘gates of Hell’

Congregation meets in shadow of Planned Parenthood

Jesus declared to his disciple Peter that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against the church.

A congregation in Everett, Washington, is counting on that promise, taking its regular worship service to the shadow of abortion industry giant Planned Parenthood.

The multi-church effort, called the the Church at Planned Parenthood, explains on its website: “The Church at Planned Parenthood is NOT a protest. It’s a worship service at the gates of Hell. The Church at Planned Parenthood is a gathering of Christians for the worship of God and the corporate prayer for repentance of this nation, repentance for the apathetic church and repentance of our blood guiltiness in this abortion holocaust.”

The website says the effort is about “doing more.”

“We’ve got to put legs to our faith.”

It already has drawn opposition from the city, and the American Center for Law and Justice is now monitoring the response.

ACLJ said the church started hold monthly worship near the Planned Parenthood Everett Health Center in April. In June, police confronted members, explaining the city had adopted a new permitting structure that the church would have to follow.

In August, the Everett City Council passed an ordinance titled Interference with a Health Care Facility that enabled the city to prosecute offenses such as “making noise that unreasonably disturbs the peace within the facility.”

The ordinance encompasses any facilities that provide “health care services directly to patients,” ACLJ said.

Police have not yet moved to shut down the worship, “but the organization remains concerned that these recent actions by the city of Everett law enforcement and Everett City Council may signal that the city intends to interfere with the services soon.”

On behalf of the outreach, ACLJ wrote to the city to obtain additional information about the new ordinance.

“We remain determined to protect the rights of TCAPP and others to gather and pray on behalf of the unborn,” ACLJ said.

The website lists 14 pastors who support the effort.

Original here